Optical Properties, Chemical Composition, and Aqueous Photochemistry of Secondary Organic Aerosol
A large fraction of organic aerosol particles are formed as secondary organic aerosol (SOA) resulting from the condensation of partially oxidized biogenic and anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with gas phase oxidants such as O3, OH, NOx, and NO3. An additional pathway for SOA formation is by the photochemical aqueous processing of VOC occurring inside cloud and fog droplets, followed by droplet evaporation. Once formed, SOA can age through heterogeneous oxidation and fog photochemical processes involving the hydroxyl radical (OH) as well as various other oxidants in the atmosphere. In addition to condensed phase oxidation, SOA can also age in the atmosphere upon exposure to radiation, for many of these organic compounds are photolabile and can degrade through direct photolysis, wherein the compounds absorb radiation and break into products, and indirect photolysis, wherein absorption of solar radiation initiates chemistry through the production of non-selective oxidants such as OH. These photochemical aging processes have the potential to be on time scales that are comparable to the typical lifetimes of droplets (hours) and particles (days), making them relevant to study further for both climate and health reasons. This dissertation presents a systematic investigation of the optical properties, molecular composition, and the extent of photochemical processing in different types of SOA from various biogenic and anthropogenic VOC precursors. Chamber- or flowtube-generated SOA is made and then analyzed using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HR-MS) to observe the extent of change in the molecular level composition of the material before and after aqueous photolysis. Significant differences in the molecular composition between biogenic and anthropogenic SOA were observed, while the composition further evolved during photolysis. To study the optical properties and lifetimes of organic aerosol, spectroscopy tools such as UV-Vis is utilized. Results of this study suggest that the condensed phase photolysis of SOA can occur with effective lifetimes ranging from minutes to hours, and therefore represents a potentially important aging mechanism for SOA. The outcome of this dissertation will be improved understanding of the role of condensed-phase photochemistry in chemical aging of aerosol particles and cloud droplets.